Tour de France

World War I Memories Everywhere in this Part of France

World War I memorial and cemetery for allied troops in Arras.
World War I memorial and cemetery for allied troops in Arras.

You cannot travel far in this part of France without seeing World War I memorials large and small. The graveyard and memorial in Arras was especially moving. 

I was able to go to the Cathedral in Reims (another Notre Dame) and meditate on Uncle Frank Denham for a few minutes. He is not forgotten. 


The Tour television coverage in France includes many quiet moments with the helicopter camera hovering over World War I memorials. I hope the coverage in the US is doing the same. 


Justification vs Reconciliation


The first night in Timble we had the honor and delight of having dinner with Bob Roll. (Photo:  Bob Roll with Sandy Shepherd at the Timble Inn) If you do not watch cycling you will not know this former pro cyclist and one-of-a-kind color commentator for NBC Sports (cycling only). He is best known for his series "Ask Bobke." We had the evening to ask our own questions and listen to his excellent stories.

Within our group of 12 plus 3 guides we probably have 15 different opinions about Lance Armstrong. Bob was honest that he owes his career to Lance. He was on the verge of being let go by NBC because another former cyclist offered to work for free. Lance had already won a couple of Tours and he called the network and said that if they did not keep Bob on the payroll then NBC would never get another interview from him.  Bob's got a call from the Network offering him a contract. He is also personal friends with Lance. His comment was that he has been trying to encourage Lance. Bob feels he is looking for vindication when he ought to be seeking reconciliation. 

I have been mulling this over. The main difference between those concepts is in our motivation or stake. Someone needing vindication is coming from a place of ego and reconciliation is someone who is looking at the larger good. This is Lance's challenge now. His huge ego helped him dominate the sport and win 7 titles. (Yes they have been stripped, and with so many other people suspected of using drugs during those years it is complicated.) Now he needs to check his ego and put the good of the sport and his foundation ahead of his own needs. Reconciliation requires that a person really soften their heart to understand how they have hurt another and seek to make it right without concern for "being right". 

Lance still needs to be justified. And as long as he clings to that he will be seen as a pariah in the sport. He is capable of doing the work and growing past this; we all are.

It struck me as interesting that Greg Lemond has also had an uneasy relationship with the ASO and Tour de France. Meeting him on the evening of the Presentation of Teams has got me thinking about the similarities between Greg and Lance. Greg was the first American to succeed phenomenally in European pro cycling. He was shot by a family member while hunting turkeys (Dick Cheney style) and fought back to ride and win 2 more titles for 3 Tour de France wins. By all accounts he is a nice guy and yet he never has been able to cash in on his achievements in the same way Lance and later American riders did. He also maintains that he never used le juice.

On the other hand Lance managed his public narrative carefully. He apparently never got on with Greg Lemond, probably because Lance liked it when people thought he was the first really great US pro rider and that his comeback from cancer was unique. It might have felt to Greg like his own narrative was appropriated. Things got ugly when Lemond started questioning Lance's drug use while he was riding his victory laps. Lance tried to bully him and Greg came off as bitter.

In my leadership tribe there are people who are more comfortable with competitive people whose ego drives them to achieve than me. Because of personal experience with hurting people or being hurt by narcissistic people, I would rather forfeit and err on the side of over care than crush someone in competition. 

Lance Armstrong's raw power and willingness to win at any cost made me uncomfortable from early days. Some people believe it is necessary to achieve great things. This is a question I am wrestling with in my work. CTI Leadership posited that collaboration was more effective than competition and I have embraced that philosophy. A small group of us on the Trek Travel team had a good conversation about this and I did not convince all of them that it is just as effective. Again it depends whether you are measuring by individual accomplishment or as a team or organization.

These are the things I am thinking about as I watch the Tour de France "Survivor Stage" (5) on the television in my room.

Countdown to Adventure

With some sleep I was able to recover my enthusiasm for my Le Tour Adventure. I am getting ready to launch.  My stake is to enjoy a once in a lifetime adventue and meet amazing people.Tour de France 2014 route Several people have asked where I will be going. Below is my itinerary. Please provide suggestions for what I might want to see or do along the way.  I will not be taking my folding bike, so I will be moving by foot, train and cab/bus. I note the kilometers the Tour de France pros will be riding for each stage.

July 1 - Day One - Flying to London on Air New Zealand

July 2 - Day Two - Arriving in London and taking train to Cambridge; staying at Christ College and walking around town.

July 3 - Day Three - Train to Leeds; meeting up with Trek Travel group at Hotel by 3 p.m. (Now on "Trek Time")

July 4 - Day Four - Riding with Trek Travel; social events

July 5 - Day Five - Riding with Trek; viewing finish of Stage One, 190.5 km, Leeds to Harrogate

July 6 - Day Six - Riding with Trek; viewing race Stage Two, 201 km, York to Sheffield; travel to London

July 7 - Day Seven - Viewing the Stage Three finish in London; 155 km; Last night with Trek Travel

July 8 - Day Eight - Eurostar train to Lille, France for finish of Stage Four; 163.5 km

July 9 - Day Nine - Stage Five; 155.5 km; start in Ypres?? or finish in Arenberg Porte de Haunait??; lodging in Saint-Nicolas

July 10 - Day Ten - Stage Six; Arras to Reims; 194 km; Finish in Reims

July 11 - Day Eleven - Stage Seven; 234.5 km; Finish in Nancy

July 12 - Day Twelve - Stage Eight; 161 km; Start in Tomblaine?? Finish in Gerardmer?? meeting the WatLoves (Harriet Watson, Brian Lovell and girls) in Mulhouse!

July 13 - Day Thirteen - Stage Nine; 170 km; view finish in Mulhouse

July 14 - Day Fourteen - Stage Ten; 161.5 km; view start in Mulhouse; travel to Lyon

July 15 - Day Fifteen - Rest Day for Cyclists and me; meet up with Thomson Tours in Lyon for Alps spectator tour (from here to Paris I'm on "Thomson Time"); travel to Albertville

July 16 - Day Sixteen - Stage Eleven; 187.5 km; View finish in Oyonnax

July 17 - Day Seventeen - Stage Twelve; 185.5 km; Option to visit Chamonix or find Irish pub in Albertville to watch tour on tv and rest

July 18 - Day Eighteen - Stage Thirteen; 197.5 km; Viewing race from the "Col" (on the mountain)

July 19 - Day Nineteen - Stage Fourteen; 177 km; View the finish from the start in Grenoble

July 20 - Day Twenty - Stage Fifteen; 222 km; Travel to Lyon with Thomson Tours and on to St Lary-Soulan (watch on television)

July 21 - Day Twenty-one - Rest Day; Relax and write in St Lary-Soulan and meet Thomson Tours Pyrenees & Paris spectator tour participants

July 22 - Day Twenty-two - Stage Sixteen; 237 km; View finish in Bagneres de Luchon

July 23 - Day Twenty-three - Stage Seventeen; 124.5 km; view from St Lary-Soulan or take cable car to finish

July 24 - Day Twenty-four - Stage Eighteen; 145.5 km; View on mountain at Hautacam

July 25 - Day Twenty-five - Stage Nineteen; 208.5 km; View start in Maubourguet

July 26 - Day Twenty-six - Stage Twenty; 54 km; Watch time trial on television; travel to Paris

July 27 - Day Twenty-seven - Stage Twenty-one; 137.5 km; Watch finish on Champs-Elysees in Paris; dinner cruise on River Seine

July 28 - Day Twenty-eight - Rest day in Paris

July 29 - Day Twenty-nine - Travel to London on Eurostar; stay at Ampersand Hotel

July 30 - Day Thirty - Quick trip to Imperial War Museum to see new WW1 exhibit (if time permits) and then to Heathrow to fly home

I have ordered a new Rick Steve's roller bag/backpack and I am borrowing Tevis' backpack. I will try out both while shopping in Davis and decide which one to take. I bought two excellent Michelin maps in Washington DC. I will take up UK Sarah's offer to go over the logistics with me. (She speaks French!)

Looking forward to your pointers!



July 14 - Day Fourteen - Stage Ten; 161.5 km; Start in Mulhouse

Laughing is Better than Crying

If a bad dress rehearsal means a good opening night, then maybe this "trial run" for my Tour de France trip is a good omen. This trip is full of mishaps. Some of it unavoidable, like the thunder and lightning showers. Some of the challenges are completely self made, like confusing Greenville, SC for Greenboro, NC. As I write this I have averaged 4-5 hours of sleep a night for 3 nights in a row, so I am highly emotional. I have driven for hours, sometimes in torrential rains made blurrier by tears. Two life line calls to fellow Panthers have saved me and quickly turned tears to laughter. And I have made some big decisions about the logistics of my Tour de France trip. Can you guess what kind of tree this is? Answer at bottom of post

Here is a taste. The plan was to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight on Wednesday to North Carolina via Las Vegas. My bad, I stayed up until midnight finishing The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I told myself it was because I did not want to tote a heavy paperback around. Really I just had to know what happened in the final chapters. (Recommended by David Sedaris; it is a modern version of Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.)  I got up at 4:30 to barely make my flight and then bad weather on the East Coast delayed our flight to Raleigh. The US Open golf tournament is happening in Raleigh so a big group of us descended on the Dollar Car Rental counter. They had only two employees and a very antiquated computer system. While I waited in line an hour, I called the hotel to push back my reservation and discovered my first major logistical error: I planned my trip around Greensboro, NC when in fact I needed to be 4 hours south in Greenville, SC. Instead of tasting the culinary delights of the restaurant "17" chef, I would be driving until 1 a.m. to reach my hotel tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The next morning my first life-line was Mara. She ignored that my laugh bordered on hysterical and complimented me on my lightness. "You seem to be able to laugh about it." Yes and I was on the verge of panic. I took my Brompton out to ride in the hills around the hotel earlier that morning and thought I was going to die. I wanted to quit almost immediately. I pushed myself way past what I thought I could do and then pulled over the side of the road "to take pictures."  I thought about turning around and then remembered my sister-in-law Heidi's practice. When she rock climbs to the place where she really does not think she can go one inch higher, she takes a rest and then pushes herself a little further before rappelling down. After my rest I pushed myself up one more hill.

Altogether, I was beginning to think my planned Le Tour Adventure was impossible. If I cannot figure it out in a place that speaks English and uses dollars, how will I manage in French and Euros? Mara asked me how I could make the trip "easy and fun". She was right--I was making it a job.

The most obvious decision: leave my Brompton bike at home. It may fold up very small but it meets resistance on all forms of transportation. Southwest did not want to check it without a box! (first time that has happened). Today Amtrak did not want to let it on (no bike policy). I would have to lug around a heavy lock and heavy bike repair tools, plus keep my helmet for the whole trip.  Whereas if I leave it at home I can ship my bike shoes, helmet, bike gloves, and pedals home from London (Day 5 or 6 of my trip). I decided I am not taking the bike and now I am feeling some grief about making this decision. It is the right decision and I was really attached to the idea of taking it. I brainstormed where I might still miss my bike--Cambridge--and how I could rent a bike in those situations.

I really want to hire a valet to carry my stuff and wash my clothes. Instead, I am going to take one bag (borrowing Tevis' backpack) and still pack very, very light.

I am going to do a lot of research about train schedules and study maps of France. I will keep my eyes open for other people following the tour (like the Canadians I met last year) so I can team up and maybe one of them will speak English and French.

Last night I got about 4 hours of sleep (read my review of Hotel Domestique on for full story) and I was feeling really emotional at 6 am when I stopped for breakfast-to-go and texted Connie to call me as soon as she was available.

I have some anxiety about traveling alone because of how other people react. Plus I have to pay a premium for single tours. The hardest part is not having someone to help troubleshoot when you get into a tight spot.  Traveling with UK Sarah last week and getting a little lost on the way to Fish Camp was fun. When I talked to my second lifeline Connie, she recounted her own solo European adventure and how people showed up as needed. I have experienced this phenomenon too and Connie's reminder was helpful. Even on this trip, in Hillsboro, a 70ish man named Pleasure Sawyer saw me reading my map and began to regale me with stories about the area. I might have missed the giant peach water tower in Gaffney had Pleasure not talked my leg off.

I also planned a couple of visits with friends for this trip. Meeting up with Chris Kypriotis and his beautiful family in Asheville was fun and worth the effort. They treated me to Luella's BBQ and I learned a lot about Asheville. It helped me understand the vast difference between Upstate South Carolina and Greenville and the greater NC Asheville community. I started picking up on it while listening to the car radio (the stations all still have local disc jockeys!). Now I am on my way to see my dear friend Carole in Washington DC. On my Le Tour I will meet up with Harriet, Brian and the girls. And possibly Susie in Paris.

I also ordered a car to pick me up and take me to Dulles on early Sunday morning. When bad logistical choices are all you have then a little bit of comfort is the best tonic.

Answer: Purple leafed European Beech.



Searching for Uncle Frank

We know what happened to Uncle Frank. He died in battle somewhere in France July 29, 2018. Army Private Frank E. Denham

I always knew I had a great Uncle Frank (my grandmother Olson's brother) who died in World War I. It was a great family tragedy as he was the only boy in the family at time when parent's hopes and dreams for the future were focused on the son. I never knew my great-grandparents but I was told that they never emotionally recovered from Frank's death.

Always anti-war, growing up with school friends obsessed with Vietnam POW bracelets and anti-war protests in the news, my pacifism was clinched when my grandmother told me how her beautiful horse was sold to the cavalry during the war. As a horse-crazy youngster, I could not imagine a greater tragedy. She did not speak of her greater loss--her brother who nicknamed her "Jack" because he wanted a brother.

In school and University it seemed that the first World War was always quickly passed over to spend more time on World War II. As I prepared for the Tour de France adventure and looked at the route, I realized we will pass through many of the battle sites from the War to End All Wars.

I also realized that my knowledge of WWI and specifically my Uncle Frank's part in the conflict was embarrassingly slack . So I have begun a project to rectify this ignorance on my part. First I enlisted the aid of my mother and brother to help find any information we can about Uncle Frank.  I also asked my brother (the history professor) to give me some reading assignments. is very helpful with documents. This is the information I have been able to piece together so far from various sources:

Frank Estel Denham

Born October 6, 1891 in Norman,Oklahoma

to parents Lizzie Denison and Albert Denham (both born in Carroll County, MO)

Sisters Bertha, Ada, Hazel (my Grandmother)

Blue eyes, medium height, slender build (Handsome and popular)

Farmer. Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, CA

Registered in Army October 2, 1917 and assigned to Camp Kearney, CA

Private, U.S. Army (Photo in uniform) Company D 159, Infantry

Killed in action July 29 (circumstances unknown). World War I

Buried in Oddfellows Cemetery, Santa Rosa, CA.

From Press Democrat October 13, 1918: The young man served with Company E on the Mexican border and was sent to Camp Lewis in one of the early draft calls last fall from where he was forwarded to Camp Kearney and assigned to his old regiment, which had then become the 159th U.S. Infantry. He went overseas the last of June, as the family received a brief letter, dated July 12, from England, telling of his arrival safely. Nothing more was heard until the telegram of ...The fact that the 159th Regiment did not arrive in England until July 12, and was in action July 29, shows it was brigaded with the British for training and would seem to account for the delay in getting news of the casualty through to the parents as the reports would have to pass through English headquarters, be transmitted to the American headquarters and then forwarded to Washington, all causing delay in face of the heavy demands in clerical help as the result of such heavy fighting on all fronts for weeks past.

My mom, Karen Olson Tognotti, remembers her mother Hazel telling her that she learned about Frank’s death and had to drive the car into Santa Rosa to tell her sister Ada the news. Some men were working on a bridge and she stopped and told them that Frank was killed. They all stopped work and cried.


My goal is to learn where he most likely fell in battle and pay my respects while I am in France. Please share if you have any tips on how to find this information about where Company D, 159th Battalion might have been assigned in the end of July 2018.


Meanwhile I have read All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. It is incredibly moving. I am not surprised it was never assigned in school since it by "our enemy" a German, and yet that is why it should be required reading. Everyone suffered in the war. Poison gas was used by both sides. It was all so pointless.

Professor Dean Pieper’s suggestions for understanding WWI:

"The BBC has a centenary remembrance on World War I.

There are two novels that would be great Ernest Hemingway's  A Farewell to Arms and Erich Maria Remarque's All Quite on the Western Front.

John Keegan's The First World War and Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August are two non-fiction reads that are worth the time.



What Price Glory 1926

The Lost Patrol 1934

Sergeant York 1941

A Farewell to Arms 1957

Paths to Glory 1957

Gallipoli 1981

The Trench 1999

There are many more films but this gives you a retrospective of some of the better ones."

Please share if you have any WWI books, films or other resources to help my understanding of this war.